Cheap Cell Phone Data (International Sits)

I spent the better part of a few days figuring this out looking through various groups and never really found a clear, great, explanation. So, now that I have it working, thought I would share my solution.

ISSUE: Easily getting cheap data for your cell phone when changes countries frequently while keeping your same cell phone number.

I’m an American with a cell phone that has a physical sim card and an esim slot (Pixel 4a). I change countries every 2-3 months. I wanted to keep my US cell phone number for calls and text, but get cheaper data in each country without having to go to a cell phone shop and dealing with the purchase process every time I switch countries. Here was my solution.

SOLUTION:

I have a physical sim for the US in my cell phone. (Google Fi, others would work, it cost me $20/month)

I then use an esim for my data and simply buy the esim online via my computer for each new country. Costs aren’t as cheap as buying a local sim, but they are much cheaper than roaming. For example. Europe is $1.85GB. Tanzania is $2/GB. Argentina is $4/GB. USA is $2.60/GB. Different companies have different pricing for esims, but I use [airalo.com] I’ve been using it for a year now in 8 different countries with no issues. (You can try it out using the discount code “Kolby267” and get $3 for free to try it out to see if you like it.)

I should mention, there are other ways to do this as well. For example, you can set up an auto-forwarding number to a local number (I think) or you can buy a virtual number though Skype or other companies and pay for a new data sim card in each country. Again, this isn’t the absolute cheapest way to do this. But for me, it’s the best combination of cost and simplicity because I change countries so often.

I should also mention, data speeds depend from country to country, but generally are the exact same as if you bought a local sim.

What are the cell phone data solutions you have found work best for you?

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Hi @AshleyR and welcome to the forum! Thanks for contributing with some really good information for international travelers and sitters, which as you say, is often difficult to wade through in order to find the best options. It will be interesting to hear what other members do.

We are fortunate at the moment in that we came to Europe from UK after Brexit with our Virgin month by month contracts intact with 100GB a monthly limit of which “fair usage in Eurozone” is around 10GB - so far we haven’t had to pay any extra than our £20 a month. But I suspect as time goes on this may change so we’ll be looking again at new best options! We’ve got French sims as well that are 9.99 euros monthly for 150GB but this is only if you have an address and euro bank account.

This will be a resourceful thread for anyone sharing travel options… thanks again and enjoy connecting with the community!

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I have a Motorola cell phone that has two sim slots - one for my usual number, one for a local sim. It works and we found it was the best solution. You do have to program it so it uses one sim for data and local calls and the other for international calls.
Best £50 I have ever spent, I think.

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I’m truly interested in this subject matter. Haven’t decided which plan we will use when traveling. Thanks for all the great info!

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We also have phones with physical Sim and eSim. We had them programmed so that the eSims are our local numbers in Quebec and we will buy Sims wherever we travel to put in the phones. One advantage I see with this is that we can reuse the same Sim (and phone number) when we go back to the same country (in this case Costa Rica). The only thing I don’t know yet is if we have to keep a balance on the Sim or pay a minimum monthly fee to keep the same number. We chose this method mainly because we’ll mostly go back to Costa Rica every year and keeping the same number makes sense.

I leave my SIM card at home and buy one in the country where I’m travelling, although so far, I’ve only bought them in Europe. I don’t need my Canadian number when I travel as all my friends and family have other ways to contact me.

When I buy a SIM Pay as you Go kind of package, I mostly care about data, but it usually comes with some phone minutes and texting etc as well. Still, I rarely use the phone. There are so many other ways to communicate now.

The package I buy depends on where I go, and how long I’m going to be there. I usually look for a kiosk in the airport where I’ll be arriving, or make sure I know where I can pick one up close the airport so I can get it as soon as we arrive.

I’ve used a few different companies, usually whatever has the best price for data for 30 days. In Italy, France, and Spain, I usually get Orange. It was about 20 Euros for 10+gb data. Sometimes I get a top up if my data runs low.

In the UK, I always bought Three UK for 20£ for 20gb data, and the great thing was I could use it anywhere most places in Europe if I left the UK. I think with Brexit, you can’t do that any more though.

The first year, I ordered a prepaid sim online and had it delivered to me before I left Canada, but that seems like too much hassle now since it’s so easy to get one when I arrive.

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When we visited fam in Canada a couple years ago, we were peeved to not be able to buy a sim card at Calgary airport…:roll_eyes:

I can do this at any airport in Oz/NZ/Se Asia, Asia, Gulf Coast countries (Oman for example)plus pre purchase one for Japan through JTB.

We have used Google Fi for the same reasons when we travel internationally. As you say, it might now always be cheaper than a local SIM option, but it’s definitely nice to land in a new country, turn on your phone and simply have cell, text and data.

Another thing about Google Fi that we like is that we can pause the service at anytime and then pick it back up when we need it. Plus, you can order at no additional cost 4 data SIMs per line.

It’s just super simple :slight_smile:

If you’re looking for a more detailed review, feel free to check out our review. Like we said, we’ve been using the service for 5 years (back when it w as ‘Project Fi’) and it has worked really well for us as digital nomads and full-time house sitters.

From the UK I have a Three Go Roam around the world package. It covers over 70 countries, the only one I have had issues with is Malaysia. (Vietnam was added a couple of years ago)
I think you need a UK address, but it only costs £10 a month. I don’t use the phone much, mostly WhatsApp/messenger calls, so wait until I have wifi normally. The service is really good in Singapore and Hongkong, sometimes can be a poor phone signal in Indonesia, but I have always got by. I used to buy local sim cards at the airport, but stopped doing that a while ago.

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I’ve just checked Three, and it looks like they have discontinued this package for new customers, but will continue to honour for existing. Possibly another result of Brexit, but I think a lot of mobile companies are now charging higher roaming fees.

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I’ve always wondered what people do here. I know nothing about PAYG data for tourists in my own country. I do know it’s really expensive here.

Yeah, I had heard that the EU wouldn’t allow it for Three any more. Other slight downside of Three was that the same expires after x months, and so I usually have to pick up a new one every time I go to the UK except one year when I went in May/June and again I Sept/Oct.

Anyway, I guess it just means I get a new sim when I arrive in France or where ever else I’m going.

I have yet to find a multi-country SIM card with the amount of data I want, and still a reasonable price.

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As a flight attendant I can’t buy SIM cards for each country I fly to so I use FlexiroamX, which doesn’t provide a phone number but I actually don’t need it. I also have a phone for several esims and like this it’s perfect. FlexiroamX offers great deals and if you can grab these it isn’t expensive.

Good timely topic. I just returned from Mexico and was charged for roaming which I never used. I always use Facetime and Messenger video chat - don’t usually use my phone but I need to find an alternative so great ideas here.

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If you are based in the US and age 55 or over, T-Mobile offers unlimited intl data (3G but that works for me) on their basic $50 phone plan.

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Oh my-that’s great news! Thank you :blush:

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Is it possible to get a sim card at US airports? Doing 2022 NY mara & just wanted to ask.

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I am not a big phone user so use a Lebara no-contract sim card. It has free Europe roaming and can be used in 41 countries.
I go for the cheapest package …2Gb data - 1000 minutes - 1000 texts -£5 a month! a bargain!

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I see that Vodaphone (Lebara’s network) will no longer have free euro roaming from Feb '22. Will you be changing to someone else at that point?
Mary

@Myhnabird - Not unless I can find an alternative supplier with roaming for a fiver.
I very rarely use the phone when out and about. Any calls I make I do on Whatsapp when connected to WIFI.
I only carry a phone around for emergencies and photo opportunities